Dear Friends–we come once again this week with hearts full of faith, hope and love that we might be our best selves, following our brother, Jesus’ way in the world. We are not without struggles but if we work together, keeping our eyes on him, his words and actions, we can indeed be models in our world of truth, goodness and love. We all miss being physically together so the reminder goes out to keep each other in prayer and thought, reaching out to others in the ways that we can. If I can be of help in your journey, please do not hesitate to call, 507-429-3616, or email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Peace and love–stay safe and well–Pastor Kathy
O God, you are good and compassionate toward all—every day, I praise you because you are gracious and merciful.
Let Us Pray
God of mercy, the perfection of justice is found in your love and all humankind is in need of your love. Help us to find this love in each other that justice may be attained through following your example to love. We ask this through you our Creator, Jesus our brother and the Spirit who lives and loves us forever and ever, Amen.
- Isaiah 55: 6-9
- Philippians 1: 20-24, 27
- Matthew 20: 1-16
My friends, once again this week; I think we can concentrate on the virtue of hope following the lead of the Scriptures. Recalling my homily of last week and the words of Father Richard Rohr in The Universal Christ; we can underscore that the virtue of hope never stands alone, but is supported by faith and love. In other words, the three always stand together. We need faith to hope and these two move us necessarily to show love in our world.
The prophet Isaiah begins this message of hope today in proclaiming that God thinks in a so much “bigger” way than we humans do. This fact is confirmed in the gospel reading today from Matthew in the “puzzling,” to us, action of the estate owner who pays all the workers the same day’s wage regardless of whether they have worked the full day or just one hour. More on this in a bit.
The hope-filled theme continues in Paul’s faith-filled letter to the church at Philippi. Paul “trusts and anticipates” that he will, “never be put to shame for [his] hopes.” Again, it’s important to remember that Paul never saw Jesus, or heard him preach or teach or saw him heal—his relationship was with Christ, the Cosmic Lover of all created life; people, animals, nature—in all its beauty and power, all in fact that lives and moves in our world, according to Father Rohr and others who write on the Cosmic Christ.
Paul continues by basically saying that, “Christ” will shine through you and me—all of creation, and not just people, if we allow it!—if we have eyes to see and ears to hear. Richard Rohr says of it, “Anything that draws you out of yourself in a positive way—for all practical purposes—is operating as God for you at the moment.” Rohr explains that God needs something to “seduce us out and beyond [ourselves]” and into relationship, and our God uses, “goodness, truth and beauty to do that.”
Rohr basically says that “relationship” is what God is all about in this world in dealing with us. That is a far cry from the God that many in this world grew up with and a bad theology that is still being taught by some today—of an all-powerful being waiting to smack us when we do something wrong—of a God who would demand the life of Jesus in reparation for our sins.
It is in Richard Rohr’s mind and heart that the God of “relationships” would never consider us, an “original sin,” but indeed, an original blessing,” as others have written of it too! Now that is hopeful!
Returning then to the prophet Isaiah; we read this thought concerning the relationship our God wants to have with each of us, enhanced a bit by your pastor—God is still near—[always near, really!] Additionally, our God has “pity” on us in all that life brings. And, our God, “generously forgives.”
Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, seems to be OK with the “Christ” he continues to know better, from that fateful day, “on the road to Damascus” when Jesus, the Christ proclaimed the God-head’s presence in, “a blinding light”—and onward throughout his life, in relationship with his God. He tells his hearers how important Christ has become to him, in that it doesn’t matter to him, “whether [he] lives or dies,” because for him, it is all about knowing Christ better, which he sees himself doing in either state.
Therefore, Paul instructs us to live a life “worthy of the Gospel,” and this continues to be our challenge today. And, how do we do that? Well, first off, we must read Jesus’ words—ponder them and make every attempt to follow in his footsteps. Jesus’ only real purpose in coming to be with us was to show us the way and in that, we can more accurately say that, “He saves us” from ourselves!
Jesus showing us the way—which is, God’s way, is laid out so wonderfully in today’s gospel. In order to truly understand this story, we must come at it through our hearts as our heads will simply fall short of its meaning. Isaiah’s prophetic words, “God’s ways are not our ways,” are most instructive too!
So, let’s look at this gospel. On a purely, human, face-value look; we might say that the estate owner in Jesus’ story is doing an injustice in paying the workers who only labored an hour the same wage as those who worked the entire day.
Several things are important to remember in teasing out this story—a point that is true of most of Jesus’ stories. First, we must remember, as the prophet Isaiah said, “God’s ways are not our ways.” We can probably be glad of that too when we see how some are treated in our world with much less justice, mercy and love simply because of the color of their skin, their gender, who they love, their culture, their age and so on. It is good that the Cosmic Christ doesn’t treat each of us, not carrying any of these human-made burdens in like manner!
The back story of the passage from Isaiah today shows the truth of this. Isaiah is basically reminding the Israelites that even though they have been unfaithful in their relationship with God, God, in turn, has always been faithful and Isaiah is asking them to do, “an about face,” “while God can still be found.” Even though Isaiah is giving them a bit of a threat here; we know, for a fact, from the life of Jesus, that our God will never leave us!
So, let us truly get our hearts—not our heads into Jesus’ words today, that the “last will be first and the first, last! In our present day, as our country struggles to face systemic racism; I believe we have a clear example of what Jesus was trying to teach the people of his time and us by extension.
Our black brothers and sisters have through this most recent, 2020 struggle, raised with full force, the slogan, “Black Lives Matter.” Those in our culture who have missed the meaning behind this slogan have wanted to answer, “All Lives Matter” and the black community has pushed back because as they say, “We are trying to get the white folks to see that their lives have always mattered—for 400 years now, ours have not!” And that is why so many of our black sisters and brothers live in poverty and as a result die at a higher rate from Covid 19, are stopped more often by the police than are whites, and many times, killed even, by them. So, in many ways, this issue fits right into what Jesus was saying to the sisters and brothers of his time and of course, to us.
I would like to conclude today with some comments I shared with you three years ago on this gospel as we try to truly understand what Jesus is saying when he says, “the first shall be last…” as I feel they are just as relevant today. You will notice some updates.
Our loving God wants to share goodness with all and could it be that those who find it easier to maneuver in this world (those hired first) are being passed over for those who seemingly have so much less? For all the times that the workers hired last stood the entire day waiting to be hired and were passed over, could it be that the owner (God) is telling us that all the debts will be settled or perhaps evened-up one day? (Black Lives Matter) This was the thinking behind the old Negro Spirituals—that one day, there would be justice. Could it be that for those of us who smugly bask in our goodness; God might be instructing us to bring everyone into the fold—to remember that divine goodness is extended to all—clearly demonstrated in this Gospel reading, today.
Our God is always about extending justice to all—to everyone who asks and God’s justice, unlike ours, is grounded in mercy—always extending another offer of help. Isaiah prophesies today—“My ways are so far above yours!” And that is why this parable today is so perfect—by human standards, it makes no sense, but by divine standards—it is so completely of God—for God’s love is insurmountable—over the top really! Amen? Amen!
Prayers of the Faithful
Response: “Just and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
- Help us O God, to strive to live justly in your world, with all your people, we pray—Response: “Just and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
- For each of us here and for our entire Church, help us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, we pray—Response: “Just and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
- For all who are suffering here today or in our wider community, be it in body, mind or spirit, we pray—Response: “Just and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
- For those who continue to suffer from hurricanes and related storms, flooding and fires, protect your people, we pray—Response: “Just and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
- For our world and its people, that peace would reign in our hearts and that we would do all in our power to bring peace to our world, remembering that peace begins with me, we pray— Response: “Just and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
- For our community, All Are One, continue to send your Spirit upon us, especially now in this time of separation, to enable us to be an inclusive community, open and welcoming to all, we pray—Response: “Just and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
- Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, due to Covid 19 and all other causes—give them your peace, that they may find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Just and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
- As we move toward national elections, help us as a people to elect those individuals who will truly work for the good of all the people, we pray— Response: “Just and merciful God, hear our prayer.”
***Let us pray for your particular needs—you may say them aloud, then response
***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—pause, then response
Let Us Pray
Good and gentle God, our source of all strength and wisdom. We ask that you would give us peace—filled and loving hearts—the energy to always seek after peace through the gifts of lovingkindness, justice founded on mercy. Help us to remember that our real task in this world as followers of Jesus, our brother, is to love your people and this world. We ask that we might have the strength for this great task. All this we ask of you, Jesus, our Brother and Friend, who lives and loves us forever and ever, AMEN.
Let Us Pray—Once again, we cannot share the Eucharist physically, but help us to always remember that you are with us, always!
Prayer after Communion
Dear Jesus, help us with your kindness. Make us strong through your presence always with us. May we put into action the saving mystery we celebrate, that you have come to be one with us and show us the way to God—we ask this in your wonderful name—Amen.